Clarity for American voters

Donald Trump will be on the ballot in 2024… How did we get here?

Monday, March 4, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously voted to allow former president Donald Trump to be on the ballot in the state of Colorado. Why was this decision made in the first place? And what does this mean for the 2024 election? These are critical questions to be answered in an age of uncertainty in United States politics.


The issue begins with Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. In a nutshell, this Section prevents anyone from holding any public office if they were an “officer of the United States” and “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the [United States].” The amendment was passed in 1866 after the Civil War had ended. Its goal was to prevent members of the Confederacy from holding public office.


Fast-forward 157 years to December 2023 when Colorado’s state Supreme Court became the first state in US history to disqualify a presidential candidate using Section 3. The decision was based on Trump’s involvement in the January 6 attack on the capitol. In fear that more states would do the same, the former president quickly looked to appeal this decision with the national Supreme Court. Given that the Colorado primary was going to take place in less than three months at that time, the Supreme Court decided to fast-track their decision and scheduled oral arguments on February 8.

Olivia Haill – Argosy Illustrator

Rather than focusing on whether or not Trump engaged in an insurrection on January 6, the Court was more concerned with whether states have the power to disqualify a candidate. From this arose the most complicated part: how would Trump’s legal counsel defend themselves? Because an “officer of the United States” cannot run in an election if they engaged in “insurrection” or “rebellion”, they argued that Donald Trump was not an officer of the United States, and therefore, qualified as a candidate.


The Supreme Court concluded with all nine justices siding with Trump. Their opinion ruled that only Congress can ban people from the ballot, saying that, “States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency.” This opinion showed much concern with the idea that states could potentially disenfranchise voters by banning any candidate they wished. With this decision, it became clear that he would be a valid candidate for President in 2024 unless Congress decided otherwise.


Even though all nine justices were in favor of this ruling, four justices wrote statements stressing that the court had gone too far to say that Congress only had the authority to enforce it. Conservative-leaning justice, Amy Coney Barrett, whom Donald Trump appointed was one of these four. “This suit was brought by Colorado voters under state law in state court,” Barrett wrote, “it does not require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced.” Three liberal-leaning justices, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “although we agree that Colorado cannot enforce Section 3, we protest the majority’s effort to use this case to define the limits of federal enforcement of that provision.” 


The Supreme Court’s decision was one of the most consequential “election-based” decisions since the 2000 Presidential election. This year, voters now have clarity before they head to the polls. After months of questioning if Trump would be on the ballot, it is all but confirmed that he will win the Republican nomination. This is why it matters to exercise the right to vote no matter where you live or how big or small the election is. From this decision, it proves that in the absence of legal involvement, it is up to the voters to have the final say.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles